A step forward towards the observation of black holes
An international team of scientists, involving Italian researchers at the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), has made an unprecedented observation of a jet of matter produced by a supermassive black hole situated in a galaxy nearly 50 million light years from Earth. The result of the study is a key step towards the observation of a black hole itself, never made so far.
The observation of the region corresponding to the jet base produced by the black hole was obtained thanks to the combination of images from the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), located in the United States, and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) at the Hawaiian Islands.
“The high sensitivity and angular resolution obtained allowed us to view with a precision never achieved before the structure at the base of the jet: we note that it has a much wider opening angle than expected (and it is at a greater distance), it shows signs of interaction with the surrounding matter and it is brighter at the edges than at the centre”, explained Rocco Lico, a researcher at the Radio Astronomy Observatory (INAF-ORA) and at the University of Bologna.
The researchers also found a structure near the jet base that shows clear signs of polarization: a property associated with the possible presence of a magnetic field near the black hole. The study appeared in the international journal The Astrophysical Journal.